I figured for this article that it would be appropriate to talk about the great wines from around my neck of the woods. The Common Wealth of Virginia (why they don’t just say state I still haven’t figured out) is considered by many to be an up and coming mover and shaker within the wine world and one which already produces a large variety of absolutely superb wines. In my opinion a big reason for this is because of the long and rich history of wine production in this area from all the way back to the original English settlers. Besides this there is always the large number of great wines that this area has learned to produce so well in the years since prohibition. And don’t just take my word for it, wines from this region have begun to gain worldwide recognition. So, why don’t we now take a bit closer of a look at this region and hopefully you’ll began to see why I love this areas wines so much.
We should probably start as we did above with taking a bit closer of a look at the history of this wine region. And what a long and rich history it has, spanning back around 400 years to the first great colony of Jamestown (well at least the first colony to not disappear mysteriously). These first great settlers were actually required by the Virginia Company, through Act Twelve of 1619, to grow 20 vines per male household head. And you even suffered heavy penalties if you failed to comply with this. This was done specifically by the Virginia Company to try and build a thriving wine industry in the new world. Alas, due to local pests and Diseases, this great effort was basically destroyed, though that didn’t keep others from trying.
The next great push to build a Virginian industry, and for that matter an American one, was done nearly 200 years later (well really around 180ish but hey I’m rounding here). This of course was by our Third President Thomas Jefferson, an avid lover of all things wine thanks to his years spent in France. He was even quoted as saying that “we could in the United States make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” Unfortunately for Jefferson though, the same pests which ruined the first industry had not gone away in the new world, and after 30 years of cultivation at Monticello He had failed to produce a single bottle of wine.
In time though (mainly the late 1800’s) the discovery was made that European vines could be grafted onto native Norton ones (which grew quite well and made great wines, even winning best red of all nations at the Vienna world’s fair in 1873). This led to a bit a boom in growth for the still fledgling American vineyards, that was once again snuffed out. Though this time it was due to prohibition rather than any native pests. Which brings us to the massive growth in the Virginia Wine industry of today. In the years following prohibition the regions vineyards boomed from only 15 acres of cultivated lands to hundreds if not thousands spread over more than 130 vineyards in the area today.
This was all thanks to the grafting techniques learned in the later portion of the 1800’s. American wine makers could finally have the European varietals that they so longed to grow. And thanks to Virginia’s climate and terrain, we here in the common wealth could grow them quite well. Thanks to being along the mid-Atlantic our climate doesn’t really get too hot or too cold and our rain levels don’t tend to go into extremes either way. This helped the young industry thrive as we could grow a far larger selection of wines than almost any other area of the Country.
It is this ability to produce a wide selection of quality wines that is what makes this industry truly great. Our variety of whites is where we tend to be best known, especially with our Viognier but we tend to be equally as good at creating great Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc. As for reds we are also quite good at producing Cabernet Franc and Petis Verdot. But please never rule out our Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin and of course our native Norton. And if you’er looking for the more none traditional we also tend to produce some wonderful Rosé, Sparkling Wines and even fruit wines and meads (you can never go wrong when your drink is made of honey in my opinion).
Thanks to all of these wonderful wines that we can produce, and the quality of which this state tends to produce them, we have been starting to attract quite a bit of attention for ourselves in the wine world. Even before our industry had the size that it is today we have been receiving recognition for our achievements, such as the best red wine of all nations from the 1873 world’s fair mentioned before. But in recent years we have been in full force winning awards all over such as Tarara’s Winery winning a medal at the 2005 San Francisco Wine Competition for their 2003 Meritage. Or the fact that a Fine Dining restaurant in Chicago features a Virginia wine on its exclusive 10-course dining experience.
Domestic recognition has not been the only kind that we have been getting either with many awards and honours from well known peoples abroad. For instance La Grange Winery won the silver medal at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition for their 2006 Fletcher’s Chardonnay. We also have Prince Michel 2005 Sparkling wine taking a Silver from the Tasters Guild International, and their 2006 Chardonnay taking a gold. And of course there was also the Virginia Wine Experience in 2007 at Vinopolis, London’s premier wine club, where 64 Quality Virginia’s wines gained rave reviews from England’s top wine experts.
Through our history we have gained the experience of hundreds of years of creating wines from vine to bottle with unique challenges present in the new world. Thanks to our fortunate location with its middle of the road climate and terrain we are able to create an amazingly diverse variety of wines. And with this knowledge and diversity we have been able to grow great wines as well as a great industry with both national and international accolades. All of this has made Virginia one of the greatest wine regions in the country, and in my opinion on of the greatest in the world. oregon wine tours